8,008 km so far.
The train ride was mostly unpleasant, at times quite trying, and far too long. We now understand why every single person in Shanghai reacted with shocked surprise when we said we were planning on taking the train to Hong Kong. You really get exposed to the local flavour on the train, which can be a little overwhelming when the exposure is relentless for 20 hours.
Despite our minor complaints about the mode of travel, it feels great to be on the move again, even if the train keeps stopping and sitting in random spots for no apparent reason. This happened throughout the night, and into the morning. The consequences of all this stopping and starting are that sleeping soundly is impossible, and we are an hour-and-a-half late getting into Hong Kong.
This wouldn’t have bothered us (too much) except that Teresa, who was a student of Stephen’s in LA and now lives in Hong Kong, had graciously offered to meet us at the station. Now she has been left sitting in McCafe for 90 minutes waiting for us – this is a punishment that nobody deserves.
When Is China Not China?
As soon as we step out of the train station, I am slapped full in the face with the sense of newness. Even though we in the West think of Hong Kong as just being another part of China, it is so not China.
The differences pop out at us everywhere we look. Here are a few we’ve encountered so far.
- There is no Great Firewall here, so when you click a link to Facebook, Facebook just opens. The same goes for Google Maps and anything on Blogspot or WordPress, all of which require an illegal VPN if we want to access them in China.
- Taxis are red, not the Shanghai green and white, or New York’s yellow. They cost real money, not just few dollars to get across town, like they do in Shanghai.
- You can flush your paper down the toilet, no need for a bin on the side! Plus, bars and restaurants have their own facilities. This makes me very happy.
- The few phrases we learned in China are no longer relevant because Hong Kong speaks Cantonese, not Mandarin.
- But, we are fluent in the local language, because everyone, including the cashiers at the grocery stores, can speak a little (or a lot) of English.
- Though there are a lot of foreigners in Shanghai, Hong Kong is overrun with us. I’ve met so many Canadians today that I’d be forgiven for thinking I was in Vancouver.
- The second floor is the first floor, elevators are lifts, and cars drive on the left side of the road. Thanks Britain, for messing with our heads.
- You can drink the tap water without boiling it, though many Hong Kong residents still drink bottled. Please everyone, if your tap water is safe, stop filling the earth with crappy plastic bottles!
- You pay in Hong Kong Dollars, not RMB. HKD are worth about one eighth of USD, so things look even more expensive than they actually are. A main course in a cafe is around $100! There goes our budget.